Monday, July 26, 2010

Post-WC trauma

As usual, the after-WC life seems empty, miserable, boring... sadness all around with suicidal rate doubling on july 12...

WELL, WAKE UP PEOPLE! Of course just kidding, and yes, it's just a game (yes, yes, lying to myself, it is sooo NOT just a game!) so we can all do it - move on...

(yeah, right, tell this to me after a daily cup of cherry yoghurt with delicious Polish cookies on the side and my angry face will do all the talking! Good idea, don't even try, buddy!)...

By the way, I heard on the street that some people got some nice money of out my WC predictions (good for you guys and thanks for not sharing, you cheap bastards), which is inspiring to do some more goodness around me. I was thinking weekly meetings online with all participants bringing wuwuzuelas, cookies and WC t-shirts and we all sing "Show must go oooon." Just a thought. If you have something better on mind share with us, please.

In the meantime, Champions Leauge (CL) and Europa league (EL) should occupy our time with national competitions slowly coming alive, as well. Yup, it's gonna be fine. (I really should stop lying. Seriously!)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

2010 WC is over - time for analysis

That was some month! For a soccer fanatic like myself it was a honeymoon part deux! Thanks to my wife for bearing with me this entire time when, straight after work, I literally ran home like a madman to watch 3 games a day. By the way, I have to admit that my wife did enjoy the soccer madness a bit, as well! I know, who wouldn't. For the love of the game!!!

A crazy thought but I have something in common with Clevelanders, who ask themselves after James went south: What the hell are we gonna do now in winter... in Cleveland?! True, I still have Champions League coming up in September and national league competitons all season long but world cup is unlike anything else. Everyone would want to experience it more often but the magic would not be the same. So it's ok, I'll live and in the meantime we can all prepare to sharpen both our soccer and writing skills for the appetizer: EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine before 2014 WC in Brazil.

A bit less crazy thought: I begin to think I should really get into professional sports and make some big bucks. After watching and reading espn analysts I do have a real shot! If they somehow get there (I won't name names, the so-called experts know who they are) I should replace them effortlessly. Confident? You bet I am.

For the love of the game it is more important, though, to focus on the WC. It started with the host nation, South Africa, playing Mexico. 1-1, nothing spectacular. However, Uruguay tough play against 2006 runner-up France was a preview of its great run all the way to the last 4! Forlan and company started and ended with a big bang.

Let's re-live the glorious soccer month, shall we?

Group stage: BOREDOM!
Unfortunately there was no great games at this stage. NONE! Pitiful exits by Italy and France, 2006 WC finalists.

2nd ROUND: Referees!
Oh my goodness! First goal by Argentina (vs.Mexico) was offside by a mile and 2nd goal by England (vs. Germany) INSIDE by a mile! However, at least the better teams won, which does not make it right at all, of course. Can you say video replay?! Hmmmm seeing 175-year-old Mr Blatter makes me want to shoot a penalty kick with him as a goalie. And I win only when the ball strikes his ironic face.

QUARTERFINALS: Finally! A drama!
The game that will be remember for a long, long time. What a spectacle! What a remarkable finish! F A N T A S T I C! Uruguay and Ghana gave us an incredible show... Holland came back from behind to defeat Brazil 2-1! Dutch performance in the 2nd half was brilliant... Casillas saved both the penalty and Spain against Paraguay... Finally, Muller's goal in 2nd minute changed the game before it actually started. Messy exit by Argentina.

SEMIFINALS: Taking care of business.
Spain and Holland won as expected to set up a WC final clash. Two best teams playing each other for the very first time in WC history.

3rd PLACE GAME: Let's have some fun!
Open game, no defense therefore no wonder Uruguay did not win. Germany took the 3rd just as in previous WC when they beat Portugal.

Despite the opening loss to Switzerland Spain won the remaining 6 games with 5 shut-outs! Only 8 goals scored (5 by Villa) was the least number of goals scored by a WC champion but quite enough for the greatest triumph in Spain's soccer history. Holland had its moments (Robben bad misses) yet it could not stop the best team in the world for the past 2 years from winning its very first WC title. Nothing legendary, it was simply the Dutch lionhearts against Spanish magicians.

Goal in 116th minute by Iniesta,
ended 31 days of soccer fiesta.

Things we will remember about the 2010 WC:
-Vuvuzuela, a new kind of alarm clock daily at 630am (Chicago time)
-Hand of Suarez with 121 minute penalty miss by Gyan that would have sent Ghana as the first African team into WC semifinals. WOW!
-Beautiful runs by Spain (expected), Uruguay (expected only by me), Holland (not surprising) and Germany (shocking! even to me)
-Official end of aryan race in Germany
-Diego's pre- and post-game hollywood-style interviews
-Italian-French-English misery
-Fantastic fans chearing for their teams
-New Zeland - the only undefeated team of WC. Are you serious?!

Don't cry for me, Argentina ... in four years we will meet again!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The other game

July 10: Uruguay-Germany - 3rd place game

I support the idea to abandon the 3rd place game (just as it is at EURO championships). Emotional pain after coming so close to earn the right to play at WC final must be excruciating. It is not fair to ask the teams to play on the eve of the final game and expect a great performance. To finish 3rd? So what?! No glory in that.

Nonetheless, since the game will be on I pick my dark horse to win. Uruguay! Suarez will be back with a vengeance. Forlan, who has had a fabulous WC, will be the engine behind every attack one more time. Moreover, Germany already overachieved leaving Klose as the only player to have a real motivation to play so that he becomes the best scorer in World Cup history. Stuck at 14 he needs 2 more goals to overtake Ronaldo. Bad news for him, Uruguay plays excellent defense and will not hand him the record. 2-1 La Celeste!

The best of World Cup

My best WC collection:

The best player of WC: Diego Forlan (Uruguay)
The best goalie: Iker Casillas (Spain)
The best player of WC final: Iker Casillas (Spain)
The best coach: Oscar Tabarez (Uruguay)
The best game: Ghana-Uruguay (quarterfinal)
The best goal: Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Holland-Uruguay)
The best moment: 116 min, Iniesta scores, Spain wins.
The best drama: A.Gyan misses penalty in 121 minute after Suarez red card (Ghana-Uruguay)
The best analyst: hmmm octopus?!?! nah... Damian, of course!

11 All-Stars: Casillas - Boateng, Lugano, Puyol, Fucile - Iniesta, Xavi, Robben - Sneijder, Forlan, Villa

See you in 4 years in Brazil! But do not forget Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine, the 2nd best soccer competition in the world!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


That's what is awaiting a World Cup champion this Sunday, July 11, 2010. The ultimate prize in soccer world has no cash equivalent. Glory, Pride, Respect, Fame - now and forever. Your name will never be forgotten.

SPAIN vs. HOLLAND. The battle will be legendary!

Who will rise to the occasion? How will both teams cope with stress? In the WC final match players' characters are revealed, mental strength plays a much bigger role than soccer skills and, in the end, whoever has a bigger heart goes home and life will never be the same.

HOLLAND, a challenger, a.k.a the best soccer nation never to lift up the World Cup, focuses on its tactical philosophy intertwined with exceptional skills. Holland is so determined to win WC that its coaches and players finally understood and accepted that they do not have to win playing only a beautiful way thrashing opponents with a smile on their faces. Consequently we saw in this WC hard-fought victories against Denmark, Brazil or Uruguay. When possible, Holland will entertain fans showing its world-class skills (like in 2nd half of the semifinal against Uruguay) but mainly it will maintain its strategy on stopping the Euro champs relying on its counterattack. Holland is a better, more experienced and braver version of Greece (I mean Germany).

SPAIN, a huge favorite, was so impressive against Germany that it made it look like Greece indeed (10 defenders, 1 forward). It was perfomance worthy of a WC champion. If only it were a final...

Interestingly, in 2006 WC Italy played its best game in semis against...Germany. 2-0 victory featured a superb performance of Marcelo Lippi's squad. However, it was France that outplayed Italy in the final and only for the Zidane's infamous exit Italy luckily won the cup.

For the past 2 years Spain has been a definition of a perfect team. They truly play soccer, out of lack of a better word, perfectly. Will this be enough against the Dutch? Perhaps. But 2006 experience teaches to be extra cautious. And you should always respect your opponent. One mistake and it's opening loss to Switzerland all over again. I do pick Spain to win yet Holland's triumph would not surprise me for it is a very good team playing a determined and tactical soccer.

And there have been upsets before. The biggest of them all occured in 1954 (WC in Switzerland) when Hungary, known as the Golden Team, lost to Germany 2-3 after beating them 8-3 in group stage (Hungary was the best team in the world at the time being unbeaten for a record of 32 consecutive matches). In 1974 (WC in West Germany) my beloved Poland was the best team of the tournament. Its semifinal loss "on water field" (there was a severe thunderstorm right before the game) to, naturally, Germany 0-1 stripped another golden team off the well-deserved championship (Poland won Olimpics in 1972, finished 2nd in 1976 and finished 3rd in WC 1974 by beating Brazil 1-0, then the defending champs). In the final match it was the favorite Holland playing a "total football" that was upset by Germany 1-2 (interesting note: the first goal scored by Holland in 2nd minute came before any German player had even touched the ball!). In 1998 the defending champion Brazil was a big favorite only to watch France (Zidane enters the world stage) win 3-0. This is the only great game France played during that WC barely passing by each opponent on the road to the final. As I already mentioned Italy only played a fantastic game in the semifinal against Germany in 2006. This time France was upset by Italy (rematch of Euro 2000 final "stolen" by French in the 90th minute).

The biggest game on the biggest stage with world watching demands nothing but perfection and creativity from every player. This is a dream to so many, myself included. This is a dream that only the best makes it a reality for himself.

My wife tells me that this is just a game. No, my love, this is not just a game. The game represents what each country is made of. It translates into political and economic life as people tend to forget about everyday's problems, conflicts and petty arguments while cheering for their teams. The game unites entire countries for these 90 minutes and while a loser must cope with a life-long heartbreak, a winner secures a place in the soccer's pantheon of greats.

Undoubtedly, this is a beautiful game.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The last 4 standing

July 6: Holland-Uruguay
July 7: Spain-Germany

Let's see what happens when Spain scores first against Germany. I sincerely hope it does. If Germany is really very good (they are a solid team, as usual) then it will not matter. Spain will be in trouble. Serbia scored first and beat Germany 1-0 in the group stage. Germany must have in mind that when Spain scores it does not turn to defense-only mentality. They want more. The key to game will be who scores first.

My pre-world cup finals pick was Spain-Holland. Later on I replaced Spain with Argentina falling for its super attack. Oh well, I am sure I'm not the only one but it teaches all of us a lesson: stick with your choice no matter what. I'll remember that. It was painful to see Argentinians attacking and falling short on so many occastions to equalize. A deflaction after deflaction as if every German defender had an extra leg! Diego's team was attacking but Germans were scoring. Tough luck but luck runs out sooner or later.

What a crazy game between Spain and Paraguay! A missed penalty by Paraguay (great save by Casillas) was a game-changer. However, as difficult as it was for Spain to get to semis it is still a favorite against Germany, which will be a rematch of the Euro 2008 finals game won 1-0 on Fernando Torres goal. They have to bring much more than luck and solid play because Spain is unquestionably a superior team. This time I am sticking with my pick. (And yes, there is no way I would bet on Germany)

Uruguay's resilience has been so impressive in this WC. It is true that I am very happy also because I did see them reaching semis and falling to Holland. They will miss Suarez but mostly it is about a better Dutch team and running out of steam after an emotional roller-coaster in their epic quarterfinal match. Well done Uruguay and once again, what a thrilling game it was!!!

Because of that game i want more! Therefore I can't wait to see Spanish and Dutch magical trio playing against each other: Iniesta-Xavi-Villa vs. Sneijder-Robber-Van Persie. This game will provide more entertainment and drama than a fantastic show that Uruguay and Ghana gave us last Friday.

Sunday, July 11, 2010, 1:30pm Chicago time. Where will you be (watching it)?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Finally a drama!

Finally AMAZING games! BOTH quarterfinals (Holland-Brazil and Uruguay-Ghana) were nothing short of SPECTACULAR! The last minutes of Ghana-Uruguay game must have been written by Alfred Hitchcock. WOW! I mean WOOOOWWWWW! The first two quarterfinals are the essence of a beautiful game loved by millions around the world.

Incredible!! Soccer, it's fantastic!

And now comes Argentina!!!

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Argentina, the real giant, will have a chance to avenge its ugly quarterfinal exit four years ago at the hands of Germany, a paper giant. Its loss on penalty kicks followed by a melee on the pitch in 2006 as well as recent comments coming from the German camp that Argentina does not respect its opponents are just a small reason to sit back and relax on Saturday morning Chicago time because we will see a fabulous display of attacking style. This attacking fury will devastate Germans. Bieleve or not, this could end up being a rout 5-1 or more. Be careful what you ask for and who you mess with. Messi, the closest thing to a new Maradona, will be Germans worst nightmare.

It is no secret that I do not like the German team. Ok, fine, I hate it! For some unknown reason they have reached the last 8 of WC ever since 1954. Does IT not make you nauseous already!? Can you imagine Detroit Pistons making 10 straight NBA Eastern Conference finals?! We were all sick of them after their two straight trips. No, that ain't right!

For some unexplainable reason Germany won WC in 1954 and 1974 being an inferior team not only in the final games. In 1990, the most boring WC ever, somebody had to win. (You guessed right: it was Germany). They always find a way to win (their favorite score is 1-0) with a lucky shot in 95 minute; ball bounces off a goalkeeper's ass and goes straight in; a referee cannot see a ball crossing the goal line even though it does by a MILE! How come does one team have so much luck?! It makes me sick all the way to my toes!

No! Argentina must beat them! They ARE better, stronger, faster with great soccer skills. That's usually enough, right?... Wait a minute! Could it be?!...Nah, that's just a bad dream. They reached their quota already.


A classic game between Brazil and Holland deserves as much attention as Argentina gegen Deutschland. Holland, led by Wesley Snijder brilliant playmaking abilities and superb form of Arjen Robben with a deadly van Persie up front, will be more than enough to see another quarterfinal exit by Brazil (1-0 loss to France in 2006 with a memorable Zidane's pass to Henry). Brazil does have a great talent on the team (when didn't they have it?) but all signs point to triumph of the Dutch cold tactic combined with an offensive brilliance. Kaka has not been the same this year, Robinho and Fabiano are more than capable of taking over a game but it takes a team to beat a great opponent. Brazil has not shown it in this WC unlike Argentina with a genius Messi having a great supportive cast. Holland is better, Holland will win and secure its first WC final since 1978.